As someone Computer Science major with an interest in Computer and Cyber Security I am rarely surprised at this point whenever a new news article comes out detailing the newest hack of a major company or of some new threat to the cyber world. However, it is a little less often, just a little, that I hear about things other than a computer that get hacked. Usually when someone says that they were able to hack an unusual device, it is usually something a little more common like a refrigerator, or the NSA hacking your microwave to record conversations, however in the Ted talk, “All your devices can be hacked”, Avi Rubin, a professor at Johns Hopkins, explains a fewer, more unusual hacks that the scientific community has been able to accomplish in recent years. In particular, he goes into detail on around four of these hacks, and lists a few more that he did not have time to discuss in his presentation. Some of these hacks, I had heard about before however from my memory I believe these had some changes to the original, or went farther in the hack.
The first hack that I want to discuss was the ability to hack a Pacemaker. In this hack, they were able to access the signal used to patch Pacemakers, and using the signal command the Pacemaker to disclose its ICD ID, disclose patient data, change patient name, change ICD clock, disable the device, and induce fibrillation. Obviously, all these commands carry their own problems if they were to occur however this is easily one of the first major vulnerabilities that could physically kill someone in this world, and it shows the true dangers present in cyber security. If a hacker were ever immoral enough, or if a bored kid with a hacker program, launched an attack against pacemaker brands worldwide, a lot of people could die.
Now if that doesn’t make you paranoid enough as it is then don’t you worry because the other hack that was described could easily kill even more people. Almost like it came out of Hollywood itself, and it has been used in recent movies to varying degrees, a demonstration was made showing how hackers could hack into a car both from up close, or from the other side of the globe. This hack is possible by either being physically plugged in or by going after one of the wireless attack methods that a car uses, especially in today’s world, those are Bluetooth, wi-fi for cars with the wireless tire gauges and such, and also through radio signal from towers to a person’s stereo in the car. Once in a hacker is able to, while the car is parked or moving, set the speedometer to whatever speed they want, apply the breaks, disable the breaks, turn off the engine, accelerate or decelerate the car, and install malware that can remain dormant until a specific requirement is met. So the next time you get inside of a car it might not be a horrible idea to buckle up before you do anything else.